Research-to-Policy Model for Collaboration
Our approach involves 3 primary objectives:
Identify legislative priorities and opportunities for leveraging evidence-based strategies through interviews with legislative staff. Read more about our work with legislative offices HERE.
Coalesce a Rapid Response Network comprised of individuals with research expertise related to legislative priorities. Read more about getting involved in the Network HERE.
Support legislative offices by coordinating a response to legislative needs or inquiries. Some of the collaborative efforts we support are HERE.
Policy Priority Identification
The RPC model begins with initial outreach to legislative experts and staff around priority areas for the congressional session. A list of general areas is generated based on priorities identified (education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc.). These priorities are elicited through a semi-structured needs assessment protocol.
Research Network Development
Develop Rapid Response (RR) Network. An interdisciplinary rapid response network of researchers is developed first through strategic resource mapping to assess researcher willingness to and experience with engaging federal policymakers. This includes inventorying and cataloguing researcher core expertise in different areas. First, a web-based registration process is employed to assess general areas of expertise (e.g., criminal justice) from existing professional organizations (e.g., National Prevention Science Coalition, Prevention Economics Planning & Research Network and Society for Prevention Research). Researchers identified as having expertise related to the issue of focus are then invited to join the RR Network and asked to submit additional information about their experience, level of commitment, and expertise in previously identified federal policy areas.
Network Capacity Building
Few scientists have received formal training on the legislative process and/or legislative outreach strategies, or how to translate their work for a legislative audience (Biglan, 2016; Dobbins et al., 2009). A series of web-based, participatory trainings build researcher capacity by reviewing (1) the aims of the RPC model, (2) barriers and facilitators to the use of empirical evidence in policy (e.g., relationships between researchers and policymakers), and (3) ways researchers can engage in the legislative process. Researchers ask questions and participate in discussions, and sessions are recorded and made available to network participants.
Legislative Needs Assessment
Current legislative needs and priorities are tracked through a semi-structured needs assessment conducted with legislative staff. This needs assessment should be action oriented, inquiring about the specific activities of offices in the focus area (e.g., criminal justice reform), as well as offices’ needs and priorities, and seeking to identify areas in which researchers can inform their work. This process should be carried out within one month prior to completing the RR event (step 5) in order to connect legislative offices with researchers who have expertise most relevant to current priorities.
Rapid Response Event
The RR event involves face-to-face meetings between teams of researchers and legislative staff. Teams travel to Washington, DC to: (1) respond to initial legislative requests, (2) interpret research based on the current need, and (3) plan for next steps supporting legislative offices. This event includes meetings with individual staff, meetings with multiple staffers, meetings with committee staff and members, as well as informal social gatherings with researchers, staff, and congressional members. Researchers are selected for attendance based on expertise in the particular office’s area of need, participation in trainings and previous legislative requests, willingness to engage in rapid response, and geographic location.
Initial Strategic Planning
Immediately following the meeting, strategic planning for rapid response commences. This involves summarizing goals and objectives, next steps and identifying point person(s) for each task. This plan guides the rapid response following the meetings.
Following the in-person event, the research network (both those in attendance and those not) is engaged in a rapid response to address the requests made during the RR event. The network triages responses by prioritizing those that are needed immediately. Rapid responses could include: (1) collecting and summarizing relevant research, (2) soliciting professional networks for consensus on topics or information on more obscure requests, (3) planning congressional briefings to be sponsored by the congressional office, (4) reviewing statutory language for alignment with empirical evidence, or (5) supporting the organization of congressional hearings that include researcher testimony. Key is the collaborative nature of this process both with the office as well as among the interdisciplinary group of researchers. Evidence requested by offices often spans disciplinary boundaries and requires not only knowledge of the state of the science, but also an ability to determine when it is appropriate to generalize that work to settings of interest to legislative offices.